The Minnesota Vikings got stronger, and they did at the Green Bay Packers’ expense, by signing Greg Jennings away from their NFC North rivals.
Whether one transaction will result in a seismic change in the division remains to be seen, but Jennings was a Vikings killer as the Packers dominated their nemesis to the west.
In 15 career games against Minnesota, Jennings caught 69 passes for 1,025 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those were his best numbers against any opponent by a mile. His touchdown total equaled his combined number against Chicago and Detroit (five apiece). Not coincidentally, the Packers went 11-4 in those games.
“He’s a young man that we have tried to corral for a number of years as we’ve tried to defend him,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday night. “Now to have him on our football team is something that we’re all excited about and we’re looking forward to a lot of great days.”
Jennings said it “pretty much” came down to Green Bay against Minnesota. The Vikings, who finished one game behind the Packers in 2012, gave him five years and $47.5 million reasons to switch sides in this border battle. The Packers, knowing Jennings’ recent injury history (11 missed games the past two seasons) and age (turns 30 on Sept. 21), declined to get into a bidding war.
“I was looking for change,” Jennings said. “Green Bay, I gave them seven good years. They were seven great years for myself. I had a lot of success. Obviously, we were able to win and it was great. The injury kind of hurt me last year. As a competitor, someone who wants to be on the field all the time and feels like he can still do, I can definitely still do it. I can definitely still make plays and be as exciting as I was in my earlier year. I’m not old. I’m 29. I’m not old. Let me throw that out there. I’m 29 years old.”
Jennings pointed out that he’s not the first player in the history of the rival to jump from Green Bay to Minnesota. Darren Sharper and Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre did it, too, in a roundabout way.
Not only will the surroundings and uniform color be different, but so, too, will be the supporting cast. In Green Bay, Jennings was the big name on a talented receiving corps and benefitted from having Favre and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterbacks. Now, Jennings is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver. Christian Ponder isn’t Rodgers, but he doesn’t have to be with Adrian Peterson attracting so much attention.
“Standing on the other sideline, you’re in awe of what this guy can do and everyone knows he’s going to get the ball,” Jennings said of Peterson.
Ponder just completed his second season and helped get the Vikings to the playoffs this past season. Now, it’ll be up to Jennings to help Ponder take the next step.
“What I’ve seen on film, he didn’t have a lot of options to go to,” Jennings said. “No disrespect to the guys he was throwing the ball to, but you can just get the sense that he needed a little bit more around him to give him some help and hopefully I can help him out a little bit.”
“I had to watch Christian (before changing teams),” he added. “I had to see what I was getting myself into. Very athletic quarterback. Obviously his upside, his future is bright. I saw a young guy that was maturing. Obviously, he’s had success. Can he have more success? Absolutely. But how much success he is going to have is going to be completely up to him and what he’s willing to put in and the guys that are going to help.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.